Bahrain opposition leader loses appeal against life term

DUBAI (AFP) – Bahrain’s supreme court, whose verdicts are final, yesterday upheld a life sentence for Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman for spying for Gulf rival Qatar, the public prosecutor said.

Salman, who headed the Shiite Al-Wefaq group, was convicted by an appeals court in November last year in a ruling that rights groups called a travesty.

The supreme court confirmed the verdict against Salman and two of his aides for “spying for a foreign state in order to… overthrow the government,” according to a statement released by public prosecutor Osama al-Awfi.

A tiny Gulf archipelago, allied with the United States (US) and located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Bahrain has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has a majority Shiite Muslim population according to unofficial estimates contested by the government.

Bahraini authorities accuse Tehran of inciting anti-government rallies and have said jailed protesters have been trained in and armed by Iran, which denies the allegations.

Salman’s aides Ali al-Aswad and Hassan Sultan, who had been sentenced to life in absentia, also lost their appeals yesterday. Both men are former members of Parliament and reside outside of Bahrain.

Qatar has repeatedly denied accusations of conspiring against Bahrain with Salman.

Salman’s Al-Wefaq was dissolved by court order in 2016. The cleric is currently serving a four-year sentence in a separate case on charges of “inciting hatred” in the kingdom.

Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of the main Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq. – AP